Saturday, 18 February 2012

Too many MPs have been failing cycling since 1996. It's not good enough to fail again. Now Brompton bicycles and Evans Cycles get behind next week's Flashride. Please join us on Wednesday and help encourage MPs to support cycling in our cities

If she lived in Denmark, she'd probably
be cycling to school on her own next year.
Not in our country though. Something's
gone very wrong here.
"It is crystal clear that the bicycle has been underrated and under-used in the United Kingdom for many years. This is especially true when one looks at those other European countries where cycle use has been increased and maintained by deliberate action at both local and national levelThere is enormous potential to increase the use of cycles in Britain, but it will only be realised if we develop a coherent approach setting out how the status quo can be altered in favour of the bicycle.” - UK National Cycle Strategy 1996. 

I'd argue that, from a political and policy perspective, the bicycle has been largely underrated and under-used ever since 1996. 

This week, MPs debate cycle safety for the first time (that I'm aware of at least) since that Strategy was set. It has been fascinating to see how MPs have been talking about cycling over the last few days. 

My own MP, Labour's Kate Hoey, has been slightly disparaging and Mark Field MP for Westminster and the City sent an extremely ambiguous response to one of his constituents. 

In general, Conservative MPs have copied and pasted an official line that seems to ignore many of the actual issues. One Conservative response has stood out, though, that of Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport, talking to The Times. The most important thing, says Mr Roberston, is "that parents have confidence that their children can cycle in a safe environment." Spot on, I think. 

Labour's Transport team has been highly active on twitter about cycling matters and seems to have encouraged some extremely positive responses from many of the more senior Labour MPs. Sadiq Khan, former transport minister spells out Labour's position on his blog:

Sadiq Khan MP hops on a bike

Chuka Umuna (Labour) Streatham:  "Despite the importance of cycling proficiency and awareness, we must never give the impression that the responsibility to prevent collisions simply rests with cyclists. That is why The Times is right to highlight the importance of measures such as improving road junctions, creating alternative cycle routes and improving safety equipment on HGVs."

Karen Buck (Labour) Westminster North: 'It cannot be right that people have to fear their friends and relatives getting on a bike, particularly in our cities.'

Simon Hughes (LibDem) Southwark & Bermondsey : 'Southwark has huge potential for increasing cycling numbers but more must be done be the council to support cycling in our borough. The council's current target for increasing cycling levels from 4% to 5% by 2025 is pathetic, and alongside proposals to remove cycle lanes from 20mph zones, it's a pretty dim picture.'

Mark Field (Conservative) Westminster and City of London: "It is the job of government to balance the sometimes competing needs of all road users....Without a better understanding of the implications, therefore, I am afraid I am reluctant to give the aims of the campaign my wholehearted support. Nevertheless, if politicians are to continue to encourage the public to cycle - and this is something which is very actively promoted in a city like London - I would have thought that the time is ripe to review whether the existing arrangements are working well enough..."

David Cameron (Prime minister): "Ministers have committed to improve the driving test..."

As I said last week, that's why I will be attending the Flashride on Wednesday 22nd February, the eve of the biggest debate on cycling this country has seen in 16 years. I want to remind those MPs that it's time to fulfil the 'enormous potential' for cycling in the UK as a serious means of transport. They've been failing since 1996. Here's a chance to make them realise it's not good enough to fail again. 

Join us. Wednesday 22nd February. Meet at the Duke of York steps, The Mall, 6.15pm. 

More details on ibikelondon blog here and on the London Cycling Campaign page here. You can even register for the ride (but you don't need to) on the Londoners on Bikes website here. I'm also delighted that both Brompton bicycles and Evans Cycles have committed to support the Flashride. It would be lovely to see some other big cycling names get behind the ride as well. 

It's not too late to write to your MP and tell them why you think they should attend the debate by clicking here and sending an email directly to them.


I'm building a list of MPs who have failed to respond to constituents. If yours is ignoring the cyclesafe motion, please let me know. You can see the list by clicking here. 


  1. Marginalisation has happened several times over the years to cyclists. and demonstrate that everytime issues are raised others attempts to shout them down have meant a loss in impetus from cyclists.

    We must pace ourselves in a manner which keeps the pressure on and serves real change. London cyclists perhaps have the greatest opportunity to sway things in cycling's favour due to their numbers and the recent ability to draw mass numbers on "flash" rides (as a non-Londoner this is how I see it).

    The Times campaign calls for what I personally see as a very small increase in funding for cycling infrastructure. In reality we probably need to spend far more.

    We also need to promote cycling as individuals, help out newbies, show people the many benefits that can improve their lives. The more cyclists see ambassadors for their sport or commute the more they themselves will feel strongly about standing up and making their voice heard.

  2. glenda jackson (lab) hampstead and kilburn - no response

  3. John Cryer (Lab) Leyton and Wanstead. he seems to be turning into the previous incumbent- Harry Cohen.

  4. Angie Bray (Con) Ealing Central and Acton - no response

  5. Vince Cable (Twickenham). No reply - but there will be plenty of other candidates for cyclists to vote for at the next election.

    1. Vince Cable, who angered the bicycle manufacturing and accessory industry last year... very pro car

  6. Rushnara Ali - Bethnal Green and Bow (Labour) - no response (though she has been active at Bow in attending the vigils there and working with AM John Biggs)

  7. Dominic Grieve - Beaconsfield (Con) and Attorney General - sent me an identical letter to that from David Cameron that misses the essential issues.

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  9. Letter from Tristram Hunt, Lab, Stoke Central:

    "Improving road safety, particularly for cyclists, is an issue that has not been properly recognized until now and I believe a number of changes can be made. The manifesto points put forward in the Times campagn, such as the training of cyclists and drivers, are very sensible starting points and I am totally supportive.
    As an acknowledgement of my support for the campaign I will be signing the EDM 2689. However, I will not be present at the upcoming debate in Parliament due to a number of prior engagements which I am unable to cancel."

    OK, though only mentions the most uncontroversial points of the Times thing.